Understanding Mandean Masbuta (Baptism)–The Ancient Followers of John the Baptizer

The Mandeans trace themselves back to the original followers of John the Baptist, who, according to tradition, fled the land Holy Land in the first century, preserving traditions independent of the emerging Christian Church in the subsequent centuries. In June 1999, I was privileged to be a part of a unique conference at Harvard University, sponsored by ARAM, at which, a group of these ancient Mandean priests and laypersons demonstrated their practice of “baptism” (Masbuta) in the Charles River in Boston. This was the first time in the United States that a full Mandean baptism, outdoors with two officiating Mandean priests was performed. It marked a truly historic event.

This exclusive footage, created by Jesse Buckley, son of noted Mandean scholar, Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley, Emeritus Professor at Bowdoin College, is used with permission of the Buckleys. Most important, I am publishing here below a full commentary on the video as a guide to understanding the complexities of these ancient practices provided by Prof. Buckley.

Here is the video link, with commentary below:

Explanatory Text Buckley Video of Mandean Masbuta


Two essential resources I highly recommend for further study of the Mandeans are:

Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley, The Mandeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People (Oxford University Press, 2002).

Charles G. Häberl and James F. McGrath, The Mandean Book of John: Critical Edition, Translation, and Commentary  [1]Although expensive this beautiful volume, which includes full textual notes and bibliography is well worth the price. However, a text only edition available via Open Access at this link.

For some of the latest on historical research related to John the Baptist and the Mandeans you can view this recent video interview with James F. McGrath by Mythvision host Derek Lambert:





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